OCEAN — Reagan Kemppainen set a goal to score at least one goal in every game this season.
She did that, and then some, in the first-ever game for the Croatan girls lacrosse program, putting the ball in the net six times in a 17-13 win over White Oak.
“I was like, ‘Where did I come from?’” she said. “That honestly surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was expecting to score a few but definitely not six.”
The junior midfielder scored the first goal in Cougars history, and by the end of the first half, had four scores to help her team jump out to a 9-4 lead.
Midway through the second half, she posted back-to-back goals to tie the biggest advantage in the game for Croatan at 13-6.
“I always keep track, and I was getting really excited,” Kemppainen said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s like five now.’ I started to realize what I was doing.”
White Oak outscored Croatan 7-4 in the final 15:40 of the game but the home team held on thanks to three straight goals from Kate Wilson in the final 4:32 of the contest.
“It was really exciting, actually,” Kemppainen said. “I honestly think we did really well. I was expecting a win, but I wasn’t expecting us to play that well and win by that much. We came out and gave it everything. It was awesome.”
The win was even more impressive considering the team features just one senior and nine freshmen on the 21-player roster.
“We know we won’t win every game,” she said. “It’s not reasonable. We want to grow and build as a program and set the stage for the upcoming years.”
Kemppainen, a name of Finnish origin – both of her grandparents on her father’s side are from Finland – has played lacrosse since she was in the eighth grade after being encouraged to do so by friends.
“They wanted me to try it, and I didn’t want to at first,” she said. “I played on a rec team in New Bern. Then I played for Bogue (Elite) for a season, and I loved it even more.”
After two years attending the Epiphany School where there is no program, she played on a homeschool team last season.
“I tried to start a team at Epiphany, but there just wasn’t enough interest,” she said. This is my first actual time playing high school.”
Kemppainen and her father moved from New Bern to the coast for her junior year, drawn partly by the area and partly by the team.
“My dad always wanted to live at the beach, and I did too, and the creation of the team was a factor,” she said. “I was scared to play at first, but I’m so glad I did.”
Future members of the team learned this summer Croatan would field a squad.
“We were all so excited,” Kemppainen said. “We knew it was going to be so much fun. Even during fall, we were looking forward to it.”
A standout student who sports a 3.9 GPA, she plans on majoring in biology in college. She credits much of her success in the classroom to her favorite sport.
“I started taking my grades seriously in my freshman year,” she said. “I started to buckle down, especially last year, because I want to play lacrosse in college, and in order to do that, you have to keep your grades up. It’s been really motivational, because I really like lacrosse and I want to do it as long as possible.”
Here are a few of Kemppainen’s favorite things, as well as her ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items she would take with her on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Coco.”
Favorite TV Show: “Friends.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Phineas and Ferb
Favorite Band: Morgan Wallen.
Favorite Song: “Chasin’ You” or “Heartless by Morgan Wallen.
Favorite Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini.
Favorite Team: N.C. State.
Favorite Athlete: Taylor Cummings.
Favorite Vacation: Finland in summer of 2019.
Favorite Hobby: Lacrosse.
Favorite Subject: Science.
Favorite Quote: “If you ever feel like giving up, just remember there is a little girl watching you who wants to be just like you. Don’t disappoint her.“
Favorite Food: Mac and cheese.
Favorite Drink: Lemonade.
Favorite Restaurant: Chick-fil-A.
Favorite Season: Summer.
Favorite Sports Memory: Scoring the first-ever goal in Croatan girls lacrosse history.
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Robin Newton.
Favorite Sport: Lacrosse.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Warming up with my teammate Erica Jungman.
Favorite Website/App: Snapchat.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: The Dogist.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: My best friend Aly, my dad, Coach Jess, my grandpa and my grandma.
Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Erica Jungman, Ella Campbell, Kate Wilson, Kelsey McCormick, Lindsey Worrell and coach Nick Moore.
Items For A Deserted Island: My dog, my phone, a tent, some food and water.